Written By
Max Brown

08.23.17

Wisdom from First Round’s CTO Unconference

Some of the best tech leadership advice I’ve seen comes from First Round. It applies to anyone in the tech field – whether you’re a founder, fundraiser, or thinking about starting a company. First Round reinvented its tech leaders annual summit this year, opting for an unconference. This approach let participants drive the conversation and engage each other rather than listening to one speaker who lectures to the group. The result? Attendees emerged from the conference with solid tactics to try and candid advice from many of their peers on how and why to implement them.

Reducing hiring pain points

It can be very tempting to hire someone who seems to be a unicorn in terms of technical skills, regardless of the way they treat other people. But it really pays to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re thinking during the interview of ways to “debug” that candidate to make them a collaborative and professional member of a team. Rather than assume that you can hire a high performer and then you can convince them to “not disrupt the team and not be a jerk,” it could benefit the team in the long run to find more candidates who have the technical chops and also show respect and professionalism towards their fellow employees.

Giving new employees a springboard for success

Another piece of advice that can welcome new employees onto a team is to assign a small project to them that they can complete within their first month. Highlighting that success at the next recurring company meeting can introduce them as successful members of the team.

Building effective teams

One of the best ways to create a high functioning team is to instill trust and communication and never lose sight of the human side of tech. One way to do that is to create a space for teammates’ personal triumphs and challenges at the beginning weekly meetings can give people a chance to be human and connect with their coworkers. This is easier to do in smaller, close-knit teams.

Another way to preserve the human side of tech is to “measure engineer happiness as a performance indicator.” Since job satisfaction can be a leading indicator of productivity, not to mention voluntary employee turnover, this metric is valuable. Happiness can be measured in several ways, including anonymous surveys (as long as the company is large enough to support anonymity) conducted twice a year, to measure changing sentiment over time.

As Silicon Beach continues to grow, it’s important to heed this advice to focus on long term company success by building sustainable teams. For more advice, read First Round’s article on their CTO Unconference.